895. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Justice the measures she is taking to promote or facilitate remote working for staff in her Department or bodies under the aegis of her Department; the costs this has generated in terms of the provision of laptops, desktop computers or contributions to wi-fi costs or phone-related expenses; the number of staff who have applied for permission to work from home on a permanent or hybrid-model basis (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41957/21]


Minister for Justice (Deputy Heather Humphreys): As the Deputy will be aware, all Government Departments, Agencies and Offices are currently working in line with Government COVID-19 guidance, which provides for home working to continue where possible. A central policy framework for Blended Working in the Civil Service will be finalised in conjunction with employee representatives over the coming months. This framework will inform the development of organisation level blended working policies tailored to the specific requirements of each Department/Office, whilst ensuring a consistency of approach across key policy areas.
The proposed Blended Working Framework paper sets out a number of core principles to apply to blended working across the Civil Service post-COVID. Key to all this is the duty of Departments to deliver a quality service to Government, the Oireachtas and the public with flexibility and agility. There is recognition also of a need to create opportunities for people to balance their working and personal lives more effectively where possible.
My Department has commenced work on developing its own blended working policy and arrangements, which take into account our specific business needs and requirements, while remaining grounded in the Civil Service Framework. Blended working arrangements are expected to be implemented by March 2022.
In the interim, my Department will begin the process of reintroducing staff safely to the office environment, with preparations underway to start transitioning from 20 September to facilitate teams working together in the office one day a week. This transition phase will also help to inform future blended working policies and practice. All transition arrangements remain subject to change and are dependent on the public health advice in place during that time.
The Deputy will appreciate that many of the bodies and agencies under my Department’s remit provide frontline services and have been committed to maintaining these essential services to the public throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The organisations facilitate remote working where possible in accordance with the public health advice where operational and business needs allow but obviously this is not possible for frontline staff in agencies such as An Garda Síochána, the Irish Prison Service, Forensic Science Ireland and others. I can assure the Deputy that future blended working arrangements will take operational requirements into account and will be in line with Government policy and public health guidelines.
It has not been possible to collate the detailed information on costs within the timeframe allowed. I will provide this information to the Deputy as soon as it is to hand.